Access to clean and safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. Yet, many communities around the world lack reliable access to water, let alone have the required infrastructure to maintain the potable standards experienced in many parts (but not all) of the developed world. In our current state of climate change and population growth, increased competition and intensified drought have exacerbated water insecurity.
Five main criteria govern a community’s Water Poverty Index, a measure of the strength of a water sector: resource availability, ease of access, community capacity to manage water resources, usage/application, and environmental integrity. This holistic indicator illustrates the complexities of water poverty and can help identify strategies for improvement.
Through S-lab student research and learning modules, we hope to develop a holistic understanding of the steps required for the ease-of-access and water quality enjoyed here in Santa Cruz. This includes water collection, transmission, purification, and reuse; with accounting of the energy required for each stage. From this foundation, students focus on using their interdisciplinary knowledge and skills to find ways to collect, conserve, treat, and recycle water sustainably; providing solutions both locally (e.g. DROPS or greywater recycling), and through co-development abroad (e.g. distributed, renewably-powered water purification).